Rabbit Hole (2010) ☆☆☆(3/4) : After their happy life is shattered

“Rabbit Hole” is a typical story we have encountered many times in lots of other dramas. The movie tells us about the happy family life suddenly shattered by a tragic incident and how the family members tries to move on while struggling to deal with their emotional problems including the sense of loss and the grief over a lost one. This sounds familiar indeed(several movies automatically come to my mind for comparison), but it tells its own story with a clear, honest attitude on the deteriorating relationship between its main characters. It never resorts to cheap melodrama while effectively conveying the sadness shrouding them, and there are several moments which rang both truthful and painful to me while I was watching it.

Becca(Nicole Kidman) and Howie(Aaron Eckhart) seem to be an ordinary suburban middle-class couple at first. While he goes out to work, she takes cares of the house. One of their neighbors comes to their home when Becca is tending the garden. She invites Becca to their party, but she courteously refuses. When Howie returns from his workplace, there is certain emptiness not only between them but also inside their household.

Eight months ago, their young son died from a car accident. Becca and Howie have not still recovered from the death of son they loved much. The time has passed, their scar is less hurtful than before, and they try to move on. But both have been going in different directions without much consolation in either case. While Howie sticks to the memory of their son, Becca tries to forget about what happened to him. She removes her son’s clothes from their son’s room, still kept intact. She does not want anything reminding her of their happy life in the past.

 However, the more she tries, the harder it becomes to her. She sharply snaps at anyone who attempts to openly talk about her matter. When she and her husband go to the group therapy meeting, she throws an acerbic comment to the other parent in the group when they say they believe God took away their child because he needed another angel(“Then why wouldn’t He have just made another angel? He’s God, after all. Why not just make another angel?”). In addition, the recent pregnancy of her younger sister Izzy(Tammy Blanchard) reminds her of what she lost. Howie says they can try it again, but she cannot do it, because she witnessed how sudden it is to lose someone you deeply love and cared about.

Their relationship gets more estranged, especially after they realize that there still remains pain, grief, and resentment between them. They are sensible persons, and they try to be nice to each other, but, in such a damaged relationship, the heated confrontation can be suddenly sparked from just one word or sentence they casually blurt out.

Considering the director John Cameron Mitchell’s previous flamboyant works(“Headwig and Angry Inch”(2001) and “Shortbus”(2006)), “Rabbit Hole” is a quite different work from Mitchell. According to him, the story came very close to him, and that shows in the result. Based on David Lindsay-Abaire’s acclaimed Broadway play, the movie is calm, sincere, and sensitive while not mired in the depressing aspect of the story. The characters are believable as ordinary people we know in our life, and the acute observations on the human nature in Lindsay-Abaire’s adapted screenplay are darkly humorous at times, which leavens the depressive mood with small laughs from time to time. The support group therapy can be surely helpful to you when you are in grief, but it also can be as hypocritical and addictive as shown in “Fight Club”(1999). Howie finds someone more sympathetic to his grief than his wife in the meeting, and she says she and her husband have attended the meeting for more than 8 years.

Mitchell pulls the excellent performances from his performers, and Nichole Kidman was nominated for Best Actress Oscar early in this year for her powerful performance in the film. After her Oscar win for “The Hours”(2002), there have been very few chances for her to fully utilize her talent, but now she has the right one to show that she has lost none of her potential shown in her early career. While her character goes through various emotions states along with several twists and turns in the story, she is always convincing throughout the movie and we naturally emphasize with her.

Aaron Eckhart is given a rather thankless job as the husband who more or less stands beside his wife, but he never misses a beat in the scenes with Kidman, and we accept both of them as the devastated human beings struggling to make their life more bearable. Sandra Oh is warm and understanding as the woman who becomes close to Eckhart’s character, and Dianne Wiest is wonderful as Becca’s mother who knows well about the painful process her daughter is going through. There is a poignant moment between Becca and her mother in the basement, where she tells her daughter about how her sense of loss will be taken care of by itself, which resonates with one Korean proverb in my mind – “Time is medicine.”

“Rabbit Hole”, which will belatedly be released at South Korean theaters in late December, is a decent moving human drama about how we can live even after something devastating happens to us. I gave it three stars in this January because I thought it told nothing new about its subject, and I will stick to my initial rating, but I found it more sorrowful, humorous, and touching during my second watching at last night. The direction is precise, the performances are excellent, and the story is heartfelt. There have been similar movies, and I am sure there will be more, but this is one of the better ones that grow on me.

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